CA bill would require discussion of end-of-life options

A new measure is under consideration in the California state Senate that would require doctors there to discuss a variety of end-of-life options with terminally ill patients--or refer patients to physicians willing to have the conversation. The bill, which has already been approved by the state Assembly, would be the first in the nation to mandate such conversations, which include topics like hospice, palliative sedation and voluntary refusal to eat and drink.

Consideration of this bill follows a growing body of research suggesting that there are significant gaps in how physicians communicate about end-of-life options with patients. For example, a recent study concluded that ICU physicians discuss end-of-life options with blacks less often than with whites. In fact, physicians struggle so much with this issue that some medical schools have started including lessons on how to talk about end-of-life options.

However, despite such research, some physicians are uncomfortable with the bill. Critics say that the state legislature should not be in the business of specifying what kind of conversations doctors must have with their patients.

To learn more about the pending bill:
- read this AMNews article

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Study: ICU docs discuss end-of-life issues with blacks less often